#QuarantineLife: Your Next Adventure

A lesson (so to speak) in hope.

A therapist told me once that one of the most important things in life was to have something, even a small thing, to look forward to. In times of crisis, when it seems all of life is about the now & the immediate future, it can seem endless unless you can find something to look forward to in the future.

Right now, I can’t leave this room, and my husband can’t leave our house (except to pick up groceries through a contact-free option at our grocer’s). Every day we wonder “what next?,” with a feeling of dread. That’s no way to live.

One day, this will be over and it will be okay to go places and see friends again. Why not look forward and think about where we’d like to go when we can? Even a short road trip will feel like an adventure. I’m looking around our state and identifying places I’d like to visit, things I’ve either always meant to do or that sound good.

I’m not sure when we’ll be able to go, but even planning the trip makes me look forward in a way that says “There will be a future and we’ll be in it.” Planning is a hopeful exercise. This can also be a project for homeschooling — more on that on our #AskATutor page.

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Isolated Thoughts: Am I Quarantined, Isolated, or What?!?

I just got the news from the doctor that I can come out of isolation in two weeks, so long as things continue to improve as they are. This is big news for me! I’ve been stuck in one room, nobody in or out, for 2 weeks now. Mark brings me meals & goes away while I retrieve my dishes. I put out the dirty dishes and shut the door so he can retrieve them. We see each other only on videochat. I watch my dogs play fetch with Mark via his phone.

This would have been so much worse in the pre-internet age!

Meantime, I see people talking about being in isolation, quarantine, etc. Our language is struggling to figure out how to talk about what we’re (those of us with any functioning brain cells and moral compasses, anyway) are doing right now. This is an historic moment. Millions of people are asked to only leave their homes for essential reasons, like getting food, in order to slow the transmission of a disease you can have and transmit without even knowing you have it. If you’re still unclear on WHY we’re all doing this, that’s the reason. You could kill people and never even know it. By the time you feel sick, it’s too late.

The definitions of Isolation and Quarantine above are from the CDC. When I was told to go into isolation two weeks ago, they let me know this was “official” isolation. As they explained, “Isolation and Quarantine are actual, official, definite things.” I was to separate myself from my husband even without our home and stay in one room, no one in or out, until told I could leave.

Mark was “quarantined.” My symptoms are consistent with #Covid19, so on advice of medical professionals, he has to be kept from contact with others while we determine if he has contracted it. We were quarantined before people in the U.S. were being told to stay home, and we’re lucky Mark was able to start working from home. We’re both quarantined but I’m also in isolation.

What most people are being asked to do comes closest to “shelter in place,” where you’re asked (or told) to stay in one place. Instead of trapping people at work indefinitely, they told people to go home and stay there. “Self-quarantine,” where it’s a preventative measure you’re taking on your own, or “self-isolation,” which would be you isolating yourself by choice, would also fit, but “shelter in place” seems to cover all of the things being done by government recommendation or your own choice.

To those who are, who are trying to deal with this major interruption in their lives, the inconveniences, the fear, frustration and possibly boredom that come with suddenly living a very small life in a very big world, thank you. You’re protecting your herd like a superhero. There are kids who will grow up, parents who will get to raise their children, grandparents who will hold their grandchildren and many, many other people, some you know and many you don’t, who will get those chances because you stepped up to the plate when the crisis came.

This is to reduce spread of the disease and it’s a reasonable thing to ask from all of us who can. It’s too late to become a medical professional if you aren’t one already. So do what you can to help them, whether it’s self-isolate, self-quarantine, shelter in place or whatever — stay home.

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Isolation Update: Social Norms for Social Animals

Hi, there (wherever “there” is). First off, update from isolation. Almost at the end of week 2 in this room. I’ve been asked how I’m doing after two weeks alone in a room I can’t leave, and I think I’m frabjous. Do you find crumpets in your hair? The unicorn says they’re nice. No, really, I’m okay. My symptoms are actually slightly better today, and I’m holding on.

Perhaps a wee bit more cynical. Well, maybe not. My theory is to expect the best of humans individually and less as they gather in bigger groups. Mob mentality is a thing. Watching those yokels go on about how they’re out partying when they could be home saving lives was galling at first, then I remembered how self-reinforcing groups are.

If you’re in a big group (and I shuddered as I typed those words), whatever the group is doing feels “right” if you do it, too. We’re social animals. We’re not the descendants of those who went exploring and broke social norms. We’re the offspring of generations of people who said, ” You’re going over there? I’ll come with you!” So it requires real, conscious thought to question.

Those Spring Breakers are idiots. No doubt about it. But they’re also doing what sheep, cows and humans do. Following their herd. It helps that their herd is doing something that sounds like more fun than the alternative. Humping each other randomly while getting as shit-faced (side note: many idioms sound different now. I hear “shit-faced” and my mind goes to “do they have toilet paper?) probably sounds much better than sitting in their rooms bingeing shows. Not to me. I’m an introvert and random humping doesn’t sound good to someone who won’t share a hairbrush with anyone but her husband. But to them.

So what do we do about it? Appeals to reason do not work against emotional decisions. People like to believe they are logical and rational, but what we actually are is rationalizing. We make emotional choices and seek support to convince us we’ve made the right choice. That’s how the brain works.

That’s where “social norms” come in. See, if enough of us share memes, make jokes, and make it clear over and over that staying home is what the herd is doing and expects, then followers (like those idiots who aren’t social distancing) feel pressure to join in, and fit in. There’s a tipping point where you reach enough people so that most people feel invisible, but powerful, pressure to be with the herd.

Even if being with the herd means being alone.

Hang in there, happy campers!

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Update From The Rear Lines

Isolation, week 2 underway. This isn’t “social isolation,” where you don’t go to movies or restaurants. I’m in isolation as in, “you live in this one room and don’t go out for any reason.” I can hear my husband making popcorn in the kitchen, on the other side of a wall, but other than video chats, we haven’t seen each other in two weeks.

This is the disaster designed for introverts to shine, but nobody craves this much solitude. Still, I’m better off than an extrovert would be. And can you imagine going through this in the pre-internet age?

This is Mother Nature’s big IQ test, and you really don’t want to be the person who flunks. So now we find out who’s really stupid and who isn’t. I’m not talking about people who are doing necessary things like keeping the supply chain of food and essentials going, or medical people. God bless you all.

I’m talking about those nincompoops (oops — shouldn’t say “poop” during TP-pocalypse) who could stay home and help us all flatten the curve, but won’t. Every time I hear one say “I have to live my life!,” I think, “For a few weeks, dummy.” Why would you want to help Frankenvirus grow? You’re on the wrong side of history, sweetie, bless your little heart.

The rest of us are busy being superheroes. The easiest superhero gig EVER. No costume to don, no cape to get in your way, just sit on the sofa and watch movies, or do calisthenics alone in your apartment. Wait for the Marvel movie starring Social Distance Defenders! Okay, it’s a boring-ass movie. Which is the point. We’re working towards the day when nothing much is going on. We’re all joining hands to save humanity by NOT joining hands. From at least six feet apart, and preferably more, we’re protecting ourselves, our loved ones, and our world.

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During the coronavirus emergency, we’ve started a new page on our website, #AskATutor. You can find it at https://ideajones.com/?page_id=1161.

Mark and I were tutors helping students K-8 and older ESL learners, and over that time, developed a lot of material to help our students. Lots of people are suddenly homeschooling, so we’re offering tips and materials for parents and other homeschoolers to use at home. Also, you can reach out by commenting on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Ideajones/ and using the hashtag #AskATutor, and we’ll answer if we can.

In the interim, we’ll have to band together (separately — social distance!) to #ProtectOurHerd and to raise our littles. Hang in there — we’ll get through this.

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